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The Cairn Hills

 


This barren string of hills is the northern prominence of the massif known as the Abbor-Alz. Its name refers to the ancient discovery of mysterious burial sites here, containing relics from an unknown civiliztion. These relics proved to be of great value, though their acquisition was a matter of no little risk. Though Greyhawk was no more than a wild trading town at that time, this was the beginning of its role as a starting and ending place for would-be adventurers and treasure-seekers.

The hills fringe the territories of the Free City on two side, providing strong and visible borders. In addition, their rugged nature and general lack of settlements make them the wildest territory near the City of Greyhawk.

The hills are the remnants of an ancient range of mountains. Their foundation is the bedrock of the earth itself and in places this rock--dark gray granite and rose quartz--juts through the shallow covering of earth that gives the hills their characteristically drab appearance.

It is this same bedrock that guards the gems from which the Cairn Hills derive their most significant commercial usage. The Free City of Greyhawk operates several vast mining regions in the hills, producing a variety of large, high-quality gems, especially emeralds and rubies, though a few diamonds are unearthed here as well.

Most of the diamonds lie among the hills to the north of the Selintan River, land claimed and jealously guarded by gnomes. The humans have found it easier and much more practicable to purchase diamonds from gnomish miners rather than to try and conquer these hills. Though the surface of the land might fall to human invasion, the underearth--where the gems are--would remain forever in the hands of the industrious gnomes living in their capital Grossettgrottell.

The northern slopes of the hills, in their gentle descent to the shores of the Nyr Dyv, offer little in the way of mineral wealth or any other commercial enterprise. This might be why the halflings have been allowed to live here in their bustling town of Elmshire unmolested for so long.

The halflings fish the shallows of the Nyr Dyv, maintain small flocks of sheep on the slopes of the hills, and practice whatever trading they can with vessels passing into and out of the Selintan River.

From the north slopes, the hills curve through a vast crescent toward the south, where they meet the Abbor-Alz. For much of this stretch the hills are devoid of permanent habitation. Instead, a few scattered monsters roam the hills here, where patrols from Urnst and Greyhawk seldom venture.

Only at their very southern extremity do the hills again host inhabitants. Here the dwarves hold sway from their rocky fastness called Greysmere. Though the mining is poor here, the quarrying is superb. The dwarves have erected vast underground halls and long tunnel networks far beyond the needs of their current population. These hills are also dotted with the mysterious burial cairns of the ancients.

 

Flora and Fauna of the Cairn Hills

 

Though the barren nature of the terrain is the most visible feature of the Cairn Hills, they are home to a variety of plant and animal species.

The rocky nature of the soil carries water away quickly, though the area suffers no particlar shortage of rainfall. However, the only lake among the hills is the frigid Greysmere, and marshes and swamps are extremely uncommon.

The streams have water flowing through them during all but the driest of times.

The pattern of plant life in the hills follows the course of these waterways to a great extent. The actual dirt of the crests and slopes of the hills holds root only for a scraggly form of tough grass, and an occasional tough bush. These plain growths produce a variety of stunning blossoms on the morning after an all-night rain. Oddly, the colors of the blossoms seems somehow in phase with the cycles of the moon--the flowers are purple, dark blue, and maroon when it rains during the new moon, and white, bright yellow, pale blue, and pink after a full moon.

Along the stream beds can be found lilacs and other, larger bushes, and even some small trees. Many of these are evergreens, resembling small cedars, but also to be found here is the occasional galda tree. These are nowhere numerous enough to lure an orchard-keeper, but occur with enough frequency along the permanent streams to have sustained many a hungry traveler. The fruit is ripe for four months at the end of winter and beginning of spring.

Aside from numerous mice and other rodents, the hills are home to the grey hawks that first gave the city its name. These fierce predators are too small to threaten a man, but are greatly prized as hunting birds. A prime fledgling can fetch anywhere from 40-100 gp among the city's wealthy citizens.

The hawks nest on ledges near the tops of the steepest cliffs they can find.

Two species of large mammals also attract occasional huntsmen to the Cairn Hills. Small herds of wild pigs inhabit the lower valleys, especially around the permanent streams. Numbers usually around 6-24 always being lead by a very large boar.

The hills are also home to a hardy breed of small deer. These surefooted grass-eaters inhabit the higher slopes of the hills. They are extremely shy and elusive. However, their meat is sweet and tender, and so they are highly sought after by human, halfling, gnome, and dwarf hunters.

 


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